Have you ever thought that despite change being a daily occurrence most of us resist it?
We don’t like most of the change we face, at least at first. Our natural reaction seems to be a desire to stay with what we know and are comfortable with. But change is a part of living, whether it is change we help to create or change that is thrust upon our world.
One change in my life recently, was the closing of the Wiley General Store in Social Circle. At 11 a.m. on Dec. 31, 2014, the lights were turned off and the door locked after 95 years of being in business. For almost a century it had stood on the corner of Cherokee Road and Hightower Trail. It was started by my grandfather, who I am named for, Berry Wiley and his brother Claude. Fred Wiley, Claude’s son, has been in charge of the store for most of his life. But as with most of life change comes.
When interviewed by Darrell Everidge for a video that ran on CovNews.com this past Monday, Fred talked about what the store sold and how it had changed over the years. The variety was from selling “suits of clothes” at first, to in the thirties, John Deere tractors and combines, to hats, overalls, and other items in the last few decades. The store managed to stay open for 95 years.
Fred pointed to three major changes that led to the closing of the store. One was his age. He is 90. As one grows older, whether we like it or not, change comes to our lives. We are no longer able to do all we use to do. Of course the key is to adapt. Another change was the reality that since its best modern year, 1987, the business in the store had been declining every year, until Fred said, for the past five years it had going down like a rock. And the third change causing the drop in the amount of business was the changing world around the store. Other stores up and down Cherokee Road closed. Improved transportation to larger stores and the internet even brought more change.
Another change was noted in last Sunday’s Covington News, this being the change in leadership at the Covington –Newton Chamber of Commerce. Hunter Hall has led the Chamber of Commerce of for almost five years, leaving at the end of January; he came to be the President of the Chamber in April of 2010. Under his leadership, the efforts for Tourism, the Main Street effort, and Economic Development have been brought together. As with any good leader, he has brought together a strong team in all these areas. Indeed Robert Woodruff of Coca-Cola fame was correct when he said, “There is no limit to what a man can accomplish if he doesn’t care who gets the credit.” Hunter praised his staff and directors for all the progress the chamber has made.
Changes have includes tremendous growth in the area of tourist coming to our community. Main Street, at the encouragement of Mayor and Council has come under the Chamber. New leadership has been recruited for both these areas.
And of course there is the area of economic development that has seen an expansion of the staff from one to three. The new alignment deals with changing labor needs, the retaining of current industry, and the recruitment of new industry. Hall said change will happen; the question is how we will respond. He went on to say the challenge is do we just allow it to happen or help provide direction. He commented there is a delicate balance between where we allow the free market to operate and the political process gives leadership.
Examples of the tide of change coming were found in the last two months. In December four different developers came to the chamber to discuss building houses in our community. In January, three different commercial developers were testing the waters to expand into our area. The danger, Hall said, was that our zoning and building regulations have not been updated in a decade and the world has changed.
Change comes to a community when leadership changes. Change comes to a community when others are attracted to our area. The question is will we be able to channel the change in such as way that what makes our community so special is not lost.
Too many are like the old timer that said he had seen hundreds of changes in his life time and he was against every one of them. Change can be good when it strengthens our community. Change can be a challenge for us to adapt to a new world. Change is reality in all of life, the question will we simply bow up and resist, or will we find a way to direct the change to be of benefit to all involved.
B. Wiley Stephens is a retired United Methodist Minister and author who now resides in Covington.